Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Parable for Christmas

Once upon a time there was a big-time Referee, who worked in the Premiership. He had done his stuff with all the great teams and even, a few years ago, refereed the Cup Final at the old Wembley stadium. He was pretty pleased with himself and his life.

One weekend he had a day off, so took his dog that Saturday morning and went down to his local park. There, he saw a bunch of kids having a kickabout. He liked football, so stopped to watch. He was enjoying it, but then, before long, something happened. One of the youngsters went steaming in on another in an energetic tackle. 'Foul!' the man yelled and went running onto the pitch. He couldn't help himself. 'You're doing it wrong,' he screamed. 'There are Rules, you know!'

MORAL of the tale: the Referee is similar to all those people who log onto the internet and find books offered for sale, often by amateurs and first timers. They like reading and check the offerings out. But then, they can't help themselves. 'This is wrong!' they yell, steaming in. 'There are Rules, you know!' They are confusing internet publishing and Traditional Publishing. They imagine that it is roughly the same thing, and that it should operate by the same Rules. It isn't, and it doesn't.

If anything, internet publishing is most similar to eBay, not Traditional Publishing. On eBay, people offer all sorts and manner of things for sale. If you come across it, you might be amazed. 'This is rubbish', you might think. So what? The ethos of eBay is that 'One Person's Rubbish is Another Person's Treasure'. Anything can be offered, and if people don't want it, they move on. They DON'T feel compelled to shout and stamp, and warn people about the quality of the goods. That isn't necessary. Everyone trying to buy something knows it is their duty to check the stuff out and make up their own minds. No one – NO ONE – takes on the task of being the Publishing Police and imagining that their good taste is the same as everyone else's.

These people aren't needed. They are interfering and should keep their opinions to themselves.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Read 'Fifty Shades of Grey'? Whatever next!

This is something difficult to admit - I've been robbed!
It's not the telly that's gone, or my laptop, or my collection of ornamental frogs. No, I've lost my name. And my ideas. Specifically, a novel I wrote last summer called 'Secret Garden Festival' and it was set in Salford University for much of the time. Someone has taken that setting, and my cast of characters, and used them in a new series of novels. What's worse, is that it's porn.
I suppose that bit shouldn't be shocking. After all, the biggest selling book in recent years has been 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Every author from here to Timbuktu would love to have that kind of a bestseller. Failing that, they'd all love to write the successor - the next big thing, for all the readers who bought 'Fifty Shades' and loved it. Why not, someone must have said to themselves, 'borrow' an existing scenario and just - well, what shall we say? - heat it up a bit?
And change it. One of my characters was called Val. He was a young man, a student. 'He' has been changed to a 'she'. She's young, feisty, slim, attractive. Not to put too fine a point on it, she's 'Emmanuelle'. Well, updated and moved to the North West of England, but the resemblance is striking. (In case you don't believe that, check out the e-book cover - it's Sylvia Kristel!)
It gets worse. Not only has this woman stolen my ideas, she's stolen my name! The author of this new 'female friendly' adult fiction is calling themselves 'G. Scantlebury Michaels'. Sound familiar? See any resemblances there?
For an author, any author, it would be bad news to find out that your characters, who you have lovingly crafted from the clay of imagination, had been kidnapped and sold as sex slaves. Like any parent, it would be horrifying to find your children so badly treated. But for me it's worse. You see, they're not completely my creation! As part of the Secret Garden Festival 2012 in Salford I was paid to involve local people in writing the book; I invited people I met around the city to suggest characters, situations and bits of story. Those fictional creations, the imaginary people they came up, then, they're not all mine. If it was just me, I'd feel robbed, but how am I going to explain it to the Salford residents who took part in their creation??
One final worry. The new series of adult stories are set in Salford University. It makes the place seem like a hotbed of steamy, saucy activities. What if young people got hold of these books and took the stories seriously? What if the numbers applying for this particular University went up this year, comprising people who will be heading north, looking for fun, frolics and adventure? What if they're disappointed??
Curious? Want to see more? I don't blame you, (even if I am a little disappointed in your taste). You can find these awful, sexy stories  here.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Quotes for success?? "Shut Up!"

Wayne Dyer says that, if you want success, you have to learn to stop asking so many questions. In particular, the question 'How?' He says, once you start taking action, the Universe will start sending you little tips and hints about what you have to do next. But, in order to hear them, you have to stop the chatter inside. You have to tell your Inner Critic to be silent for a time, so that you can really hear the messages.

Imagine, for a moment, that you were on the Titantic. The big liner has hit the iceberg, the engines have stopped and a Steward is banging on your cabin door. You go out, in your dressing gown, and he tells you not to panic and to 'proceed to the Lifeboats'.

Would you co-operate? We might like to believe that we would do the sensible thing. But, in reality, you would start questions. Wouldn't you? Like 'How can we be sure we'll get a place in a boat for all of my family?' 'How will we get the lifeboat launched, now that the ship is listing to one side?' 'How will we get away from the ship and avoid being sucked under?' 'How will we row away if no one has ever used oars before?' And so on, and so on. If you follow Wayne Dyer's advice, then all you have to do is take the first step: get up that staircase to the Boat Deck. When you arrive you will see the queue and you will get a place on a lifeboat. When you're seated in the boat, you will see the ropes and how to start lowering it. When you hit the water, you'll find the oars. And so on. Each step will take you to the next, and when you arrive there, you'll see what to do after that.

The alternative, the one where you're still arguing with the Steward, has one massive disadvantage; you're still standing outside your cabin! You haven't moved. You're so desperate to get all the facts, to hear all the plans, that you haven't even taken one step. That's like most people. Isn't it? They go to seminars about 'Success', they listen, they ask questions, but six months later, they're still arguing with the guru, demanding more and more answers. Then, they say, when they're happy, they'll start. They never do.

They can't be blamed, of course. It's not them, really, it's that darn Inner Critic. It won't shut up! It keeps querying, doubting, criticising. Well, there's a way out. Bob Proctor says this – it isn't you. No, that dreaded Inner Voice is the collected memories of all the things parents have said, teachers, Scout Master, Professor, boss. All the negative stuff, the slanderous things about you and your abilities. You've studiously noted them over the years, rolled them all up and absorbed them into one giant Critic. It's all right, it's OK. You're allowed to stop, take a deep breath and scream: "Shut the hell UP!"

Unless you do, you're not going to move on. But then, that's the point, isn't it? The one thing that all that guff had in common is that they're saying you're a hopeless person, you're never going to get anywhere, do anything worthwhile. The only way to make that true is to stay exactly where you are. DON'T, whatever you do, make more money, get a better job, find an ideal partner, or start your own business, because that would prove the critics wrong. You don't want that, really, do you? They said negative stuff about you? They're right, aren't they? That's what you need to believe. Scarey stuff. To move on, to make that million or whatever your heart desires, you have to put your head above the parapet and risk it getting blown off. You have to be different and risk your friends being mean, not liking you anymore, or cutting you out of their circle. Worse, and this is the real killer, you have to face up and admit that whatever it is that you've been doing for the last few years, it maybe ISN'T what you need, at least in the sense that it's getting you what you really want. If your methods are working, fine, you don't need advice. So how are you investing that million? Oh, haven't got one yet? Well, keep ploughing your familiar furrow. Let me know when you find your pot of gold.

On the other hand, if you want something to change, get out of that field you're in now, and start working another furrow, maybe one where someone else can guide you and show you a better way and a better result. Hmm, another critic comes into play then. It's the one that says, 'I want my cake and eat it.' That's an expression from my childhood. It means, well, you've got a cake in your hand, and you like the look of it. You want to save it, maybe have it for tea, later. On the other hand, it looks so tempting, you'd like to eat it now. Fine. Your choice. Eat it now, or later, you decide. What you can't do is eat it now AND later. Life is full of decisions, and every time you decided something, you cut off the other option. If you want to be rich, you first must find the time. Maybe you like meeting your mates down the pub on a Friday night. That might have to stop for you, while you concentrate on something else. Maybe you like to be glued to the TV, watching 'CSI'. That might have to take a holiday too. You can't have it both ways, sorry. And that's another reason why people are still hanging around outside their cabin on the Titanic, instead of fleeing for the boats. Heck, what they really want is to get back to their fluffy eiderdowns and have more sleep, rather than sit, huddled in duffel coats on an icey sea. Sorry, you really do have to make a choice. You can't have it both ways. While you're thinking about which road you eventually will get around to taking, here's a final thought. People like being experts. Above all, they love to be right. If you ever did get to listen to that 'guru' and follow their advice, it might mean they'd have to own up and see that what they're doing is 'wrong'. Not wrong in the sense that they could do it, if they wanted. But 'wrong' in the sense that the road they're travelling has a destination and maybe it isn't the one they're telling us they want. If you want a different ending, then maybe you need a different road. You need to stop, back up, and change direction. That's uncomfortable too. In some sense, it feels like failure.

Now, every darn 'guru' from here to Timbktu will tell you that that 'failure' is a made-up concept you accept into your Inner Critic, but actually, it makes no sense at all. If you ever tried to ride a bike, you know that at first you sometimes fell off. Hell, when you were a baby you had to learn to walk, and that involved falling flat many times. We don't like doing that when we're adults'; we thing people are laughing at us. We like to be in control. Well, one unfortunate and maybe fatal consequence of that is that when the guru says, 'Right, this is the way to make a million - ', we not only start asking questions, we start putting in our own ideas. Hang about! Who's the person who actually is sitting on the bank account of a million dollars, again? It's the one on stage, suggesting ideas. If you aren't the person with the cash and the big house, how the hell do you know that his ideas, his 'system', his advice, won't work? And yet, that's what we say!

Get real! The 'Dragons' on the TV show 'Dragon's Den' are business people who all have successful businesses, maybe more than one, and they all have cash and money to spare to invest. If you dare to ask them for advice and one says, 'Right, what you need to do first is to start collecting paper clips', who are you to say that's wrong? If you were a 'Dragon', well then, fair enough, we'd listen to you. But if I want to know how to get rich, then forgive me, I'm going to listen to the person who's done it, not the one who's read all the books, but never bothered to put any of the advice into practice. In other words, if you really, really, really, want to improve your life, then you need to stop talking and start listening. You need to silence that unhelpful, interfering Inner Critic and create some space where you can actually hear what's being offered.

If you want success, SHUT UP!

Mike Scantlebury has written more than one article about achieving success. Some recent articles have been gathered together and put onto Kindle as a downloadble e-book. You can find it here.